The Real History of Slender Man

The legendary character known as Slenderman or Slender Man is an urban legend, but one for which we know the exact origin. Neatorama readers know he was born at Something Awful, but you might not know all the details. Eric Knudsen, who uses the internet name Victor Surge, spent 15 minutes coming up with two Photoshopped images in response to a forum prompt in 2009. He presented them with a couple of mysterious and creepy newspaper captions.   

The Something Awful community latched onto Knudsen's photos. A user named "21st Century" imagined Slender Man as an ergodic novel in the vein of Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves. User "TrenchMaul" linked it to an actual 1959 hiking accident in the Ural Mountains where nine people died (six of hypothermia, three of mysterious bodily trauma), earning "Slender Pass" a casual mention on the "Dyatlov Pass incident" Wikipedia page. The pile-on of manipulated images and faux-documentation eventually dissolved the Slender Man's ties to the Something Awful forums. Anyone who Googled for Slender Man "lore" would find offshoot sites and stray blogs, filled with connections and references in actual mythology. Many wondered if Germany’s 16th-century monster Der Großmann aka "The Great Man," a spindly creature rumored to stalk the deepest parts of the forest, was the actual Slender Man. Sure, why not?

Knudsen had created a monster. "An urban legend requires an audience ignorant of the origin of the legend," he said in an interview. "It needs unverifiable third- and fourth-hand (or more) accounts to perpetuate the myth … internet memes are finicky things and by making something at the right place and time it can swell into an 'internet urban legend.'"

The spread of Slender Man was a phenomenon. Writers created more stories. Video producers were inspired by Slender Man. Video games were designed around him. And the further the character got from the original source, the murkier its source became. The uncontrolled spread of the stories eventually led to two 12-year-olds stabbing a classmate 19 times in 2014 (she survived, but the case is ongoing). Knudsen asserts his copyright over the character Slender Man, while Hollywood acts like he's fair game, and people who hear about him assume it's an old legend instead of a recent fictional character. Read the complete history of Slender Man at Thrillist.

(Image credit: mdl70)


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